Simply put, our children don’t deserve to have Gov. Bobby Jindal play politics with their futures. His unilateral and virtually unsupported decision to walk away from the Common Core and aligned educational assessments will totally disrupt and potentially reverse the progress that has been made in classrooms. When students and teachers return to school in the fall, they should not be faced with limbo while Jindal cobbles together new standards — not when the equitable implementation of Common Core presents a high-quality solution to the issues of inconsistent and unequal education standards.
Louisiana was an early adopter of the new standards, and we’ve spent years and millions of dollars to make sure we get this transition right for all students, teachers and families. The standards are not a top-down, “Big Brother” federal program. Rather, these standards were written by teachers, parents, school administrators and education experts who were brought together by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Jindal had been a vocal supporter of Common Core, saying the standards “will raise expectations for every child.” So we are baffled as to why he is now spreading misinformation and myths about their source. Most unfortunately, he is using our children’s education as a political pinball and his leadership role to block Louisiana students from success instead of providing the support they need to thrive.
Clearly, the standards in place before Common Core didn’t consistently prepare our students for bright futures. In fact, about one in four students in the state read proficiently and only 17 percent graduated high school ready for college. This is unacceptable. We need to focus on ensuring that we get the implementation of Common Core right and not waste another second or dime superfluously developing another set of standards and assessments.
Our children cannot afford to press pause on their futures while Jindal shores up support for his own political future. Parents shouldn’t have to spend $71 million on college remedial courses each year on content that should be part of their child’s education. Our businesses can’t wait for the skilled workers they need now to fill jobs. Louisiana students and families shouldn’t be forced to stop the progress we’ve already made.
In Louisiana, districts are providing training; teachers are developing new lessons; and students are trying out new assessments. As a veteran elementary teacher from New Orleans puts it, “We are already teaching the new standards. We’ve already achieved success and we want to get better ... Backpedaling now doesn’t make any sense, period.” Resounding support has also been echoed from the charter school community. According to Sharon Clark, charter school director of Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans, “Common Core has forced us to rethink how we teach our students. We can no longer just strive for our kids to memorize the relevant facts and be able to compose a simple rhetorical essay. Today we have to give them the skills to analyze complex information and to use that analysis to synthesize new ideas and concepts. High expectations and high standards go hand in hand.”
The National Urban League and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans stand with the citizens of Louisiana, Superintendent John White, state school board President Chas Roemer and the Louisiana Legislature in continuing to implement the Common Core State Standards and the aligned assessments designed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers .
To leave Common Core is to leave our children behind — as a state and a nation. Govs. Jindal, Mary Fallin, of Oklahoma, Nikki Haley, of South Carolina, Mike Pence, of Indiana, and Rick Scott, of Florida have cynically chosen to sacrifice our children’s futures to promote their own political agendas. Implementing the Common Core shouldn’t be about elections; it should be about children. We must get this right, and we must put our children first. For too long, separate and unequal levels of expectations and resources in our schools have continued to break down along the color line, leaving students without all that they need to be ready for college, work and life. Let’s use this as an opportunity to achieve the promise we made to our nation 60 years ago — an equal and excellent education for all.
Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League. Erika McConduit-Diggs is president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans and a member of The New Orleans Advocate advisory board.